An additional 15,000 heads of cattle will have to be slaughtered to contain an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease that has led a host of nations to ban Brazilian beef imports, health authorities said on Thursday.
On Oct.10, the Brazilian government confirmed an outbreak of the disease among 140 animals on a farm near Eldorado, a small rural town some 800 kilometers (500 miles) west of Sao Paulo. Authorities quickly quarantined Eldorado and four neighboring municipalities in a 25-kilometer (16-mile) radius that encompasses 21 ranches and small homesteads where cattle have tested positive for the disease. Barriers are still in place to prevent livestock and animal products from leaving the area.
All the ranches where the disease has so far been detected are located in Mato Grosso do Sul, which has a herd of 25 million heads of cattle, accounting for nearly half of Brazil's beef exports. Authorities are awaiting conclusion of tests that have been conducted on some properties in the neighboring state of Parana. Foot-and-mouth disease, which also affects sheep, pigs and goats, is a highly contagious viral illness that can spread through minimal contact with infected animals, farm equipment or meat. The disease can be fatal in animals but does not harm humans.
This week, 16 of Brazil's 27 states began a second round of vaccinations that by the end of the month is expected to immunize 161 million of Brazil's total herd of 198 million heads of cattle, according the Agriculture Ministry's National Foot-and-Mouth Eradication Program.
The first vaccination round in the 16 states, including Mato Grosso do Sul, was concluded in May, said Agnes Melo, a ministry spokeswoman.
The vaccination has an efficiency ratio of 98 percent against the foot-and-mouth virus strain found in cattle in Mato Gross do Sul, the Agriculture Ministry said in a recent statement. A.M.